Clarissa Johal: Reincarnation

Sunday, September 30, 2012


I thought I’d write today on the topic of reincarnation. Between, my paranormal novel coming out in December, touches lightly on this subject and it’s one I find fascinating. Whether or not you believe; you have to admit, it’s an interesting idea.
I consider myself pretty open-minded. My parents were agnostic and atheist but the door was always open to discuss religious ideology and how it pertained to other cultures. It was something I was grateful for because it allowed me to discover and follow my own path. Religion was fascinating to me, but religion as it applied to different cultures, even more so.
By the time I finished college and university, I had taken so many classes in cultural anthropology that my curiosity had led me into receiving an unintentional minor in that field. As a student, I'd been lucky enough to participate in a ceremonial Native American sweat-lodge, observe a voodoo ritual connecting with ancestral spirits, experience a Wiccan banishing of negative entities and participate in a Pagan fire-walk. (And no, I didn’t get burned. There were others, however, who did)
At that point, I knew what I had experienced but was unsure of what I believed. Nothing fell into one religious category.
One day, a friend of mine was telling me about a physics professor who was conducting a class on reincarnation. The local university offered a series of extension classes that were always off-beat and educational. It sounded interesting so I thought I’d give it a try.
The class met at the professor's house and the first meeting was basically him outlining the concept of reincarnation and how it applied to different religions. I was familiar with the concept from the anthropology courses I had taken, but I politely listened. He went onto say that he would be offering a past-life regression hypnosis session to those that were interested. Now, that was something I hadn’t counted on! He made no promises, nor did he say what we could experience was fact, but the offer was there. Always open to new experiences, I was the first to sign up.

Here’s a definition for those who are unfamiliar with past-life regression. 

Past life regression a technique that uses hypnosis to recover what practitioners believe are memories of past lives or incarnations, though others regard them as fantasies or delusions.

So, there you have it—both sides of the spiritual coin, so to speak.

The evening of the meeting, I showed up expecting everything and nothing. Would hypnosis be like falling asleep? Would I know what was happening around me? Would it be like the movies where you were pulled into an alternate lifetime you couldn’t escape from? Well, it turned out that being hypnotized was much like being talked through a relaxation exercise. You are aware of everything around you. You aren’t asleep. You do, however, get pictures in your head that come without thought. They come fast and extremely detailed. Did I have any past lives to speak of? I'll let you be the judge because here's what I experienced.
I experienced a lifetime in 7th century Japan. I was looking at myself in a polished bronze mirror of some kind. The image wasn’t very clear but I could see that my teeth were blacked out. Not gone, just dyed black. I fact-checked afterwards and found that this was called Ohaguro. It was something I was unfamiliar with and apparently, it died out by the Meiji Era. In this particular lifetime, I had fallen in love with a village artist who was hired by my husband to paint my portrait. Our affair was discovered and my husband sent a group of his men to behead me. Oddly enough, when I saw this happening, I rose above the scene and watched them toss my body in a river before the scene went blank. The experience was not only disturbing, but completely unexpected.
Another life I experienced (in the same session) was one in 18th century America. Not quite as violent as the one in Japan, but extremely detailed. I was a woman living in a very nice manor house. My set of silverware had handles of animal antlers which I found out later was popular at the time. In another scene, I saw myself fighting with a gentleman who was pulling my hair from where it wound around my head. I do remember feeling extremely angry when I experienced that. Fast-forward to me as an old lady. I was in my bedroom, my maid was closing all the curtains, and I was floating over the scene observing my own death. Fade to black on that one. 

After the regression, I met with the professor to ask his opinion on what I had experienced. In typical professor fashion, he answered my questions with more questions. “Have you ever met someone you feel you’ve known before? Have you known facts about something you have had no experience with? Some would say those are past-life experiences.” Um, okay. Thank you, Professor. 
I decided to stop at one session because I found regression to be fascinating, yes, but too much to wrap my brain around.

Both experiences gave me pause for thought. Certainly, these "lifetimes" were nothing I would have thought of or expected and I’m still unsure what to think of them. But it’s what I experienced and I file it away under “Things I’ve Experienced but Cannot Explain.”
That file seems to get bigger and bigger the older I get.

So, the subject makes it’s way into my novels. I don’t do it consciously, but when I go back and read what I’ve written, it’s there. The concept has been around since the Iron Age and in Indian and Greek philosophical traditions of 6th century BCE. To this day, it endures in many tribal societies; places such as Siberia, West Africa, North America, and Australia, and many religious philosophies around the world.

What are your thoughts? And more telling, how would those thoughts change if you experienced something you couldn't explain?


Rhea Rhodan said...

Fascinating post, Clarissa. I have another theory to toss in the ring of past-life memories which you may not be familiar with. It stems from the Jungian concept of a universal consciousness. This theory discards reincarnation as the explanation for those memories, and instead suggests that they are memories your subconscious has drawn from the experiences of others. Think ancestral memories, but expanded to include all conscious experiences.

While I choose to believe in reincarnation for a number of reasons, I have found that this theory is a more palatable explanation for the more scientific, less-spiritually oriented.

Thanks for the great discussion fodder. If we can't be somewhere together, talking and sipping something, this is the next best thing! Looking forward to more (whenever you get around to it).

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Yes!! I remember reading about that and oddly enough, that thought just popped into my head about 15 minutes ago, lol. I may do a post on that very subject. Fascinating stuff, isn't it?

Sharon Ledwith said...

Clarissa - I totally believe in past lives. In fact, I'm sure we must have crossed paths somewhere along the timeline! Great and interesting post! Tweeted and shared! Cheers!

DT said...

Hi, Clarissa. Whether it's collective memory, reincarnation or active imagination, it sounds like you've found a potent method for generating plot lines and characters. I am interested in whether you previously had any leanings towards those cultures and historical periods that you encountered?

A friend told me that the author Taylor Caldwell once said all her novels were past lives. If you're looking for extra homework, I recommend the works of Arthur Guirdham, The Search for the Girl with Green Eyes by Jess Stearn, and Far Memory by Joan Grant.

I've long accepted reincarnation as a 'working hypothesis' and it features in an esoteric work-in-progess of mine called Covenant.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Derek, thank you for visiting! No, I hadn't an affinity for those cultures at that time. I'd been focusing on Egyptian studies in Anthropology (if anything). I was trying to get an archeology internship over there. Thanks for the heads up on those novels, I'll have to check them out.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Sharon-thanks so much for visiting! You are my support system (:

Unknown said...

Great Post. As it was once said, "there is more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of in . . . " philosphy and science.

We write about what we know or what we're interested in knowing more about. It's always fun to see how the writer's interests leak out into the stories.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Thanks for stopping by, Nancy! Heehee, I do love that quote--and your take on it (:

Joanna Fay said...

Great post, Clarissa. I believe in reincarnation, and the reasons why would fill a book. Hmm..must write it sometime :)
My oldest great aunt, long gone from this life, was interviewed on national radio in Australia in the 1950s about reincarnation, which completely scandalized the family. Some of them never spoke to her again! Brave lady. At least now it can be discussed (although my family still think I'm pretty 'out there', lol)...:)

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Aw, how sad they chose to react in that way. There are so many different viewpoints in the world, and that's okay! It's what makes things interesting. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Joanna!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, Clarissa. I can't say that I believe in reincarnation myself, or have ever felt the urge to study it, but I've enjoyed watching or reading fictional accounts that I thought were well done and emotionally moving. My favorite was an episode of The X-Files, "The Field Where I Died," where Mulder undergoes past-life regression hypnosis.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Thanks for stopping by, Vala! I loved X-Files when it was on but I don't remember that episode. Hmm, I'm going to have to start watching reruns (:

Sloane Taylor said...

Clarissa, I've been regressed and consider it one of the most amazing experiences of this life.:) Up to the 11th Century or so, reincarnation was taught in Europe. People pillaged and plundered, figuring why bother being good since they'd return anyway. Finally, a pope decided it all had to stop and banished reincarnation from future teachings.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Cool! I would be interested in hearing about your experiences, Sloane

Sheri said...

Clarissa, such a fascinating post! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I'm afraid that my curiosity would probably get the best of me and I would have to go back for more. Although, watching my own demise over and over would get a little disheartening.

I had never considered past lives as a possibility for someone's creative juices before, but what a cool thought.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Thanks for the comment, Sheri! It was an interesting experience but, as you say, a bit on the intense side! (:

smokingpigeon said...

Some theories I've read that are more recent, having less to do with ideology and more to do with Victorian magical theory:

o When we die, we disassemble ourselves into "bits we want to save for next time" "bits we throw away" and "bits we wish we could throw away but find we shall have to keep for next time anyway." Then we assemble new selves for the next life out of these bits of the most recent and more distant pasts, and out of bits floating around that nobody else is using. Or perhaps simply duplicate them. After all, isn't it so taht more than one person seems to copy the life or style of some famous historical figure?

o we get the afterlife we plan in this life. This is a version of the idea of "dharma" and "karma"--duty and just general goes-around-comes-around.

o we form little vortices of lives and live each one in the pattern serially--this time, the abused wife, next time, the abusive husband, next time, their business partner or child, next time, one of their parents or lovers or siblings or best friends or grandchildren. If you look at the intensity with which certain groups have affected history, like the Fabians of the Victorian Era, this makes far more sense than I'm comfortable with.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Jennifer!

Margaret said...

Clarissa, that was really interesting hearing about your past (maybe?) lives. What I found so interesting was the specificity of your memories and how the details turned out to be historically accurate. That is very interesting! When I was younger, I read a few books about reincarnation. I don't necessarily believe or disbelieve. To me, like the quote from Shakespeare Nancy referenced, there are too many mysteries and things we don't know the answers to. I tend to keep my mind open and know I'm not going to have the answers for everything.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Thanks, Margaret! Yes, I'm a stickler for fact-checking, lol. But, I agree, there are many mysteries in life. That's what makes it fun (:

Lizzie said...

Loved the post, Clarissa. I get the 'been there, done that' or 'know them' feeling often. Funny, at my last book signing a lady came up at last minute and asked if she could look at my palm. She did a reading and one of her questions centered around "do you get the feeling you've met someone before when you haven't?" She went on to say I'd had several lives and knew them then.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Oh, interesting! Very neat you were able to connect with a reader that way too (who felt comfortable enough to read your palm! I've never had that done and don't know much about it). Thanks for stopping by, Lizzie!